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Attentiveness: A Primer
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Attentiveness: A Primer
5/29/12 9:18 PM
This is something I wrote originally to post on here, it's an attempt to describe the basics of attentiveness and clear up some misunderstandings about this simple, yet powerful practice. If anyone sees anything I'm not describing clearly enough, or that I'm perhaps misinterpreting entirely then please say so as I'm trying to be as clear and precise as possible in what I'm writing here. It's a long post, as usual, so thanks for checking it out!

Attentiveness: A Primer

Attentiveness is a commonly used word and something that forms the bare bones of our practice, regardless of which model we use. I intend to break the word down and provide a practical description of what attentiveness “is”, and how to improve practice through really understanding what it means to be attentive. This is just my take on it based on what works, and is working, for me; this may change as new information becomes available.

The Word
Attentiveness describes the act of paying attention to an object; to be “attentive” is to be engaged in the act of paying attention; “attention” is defined as “the act or faculty of attending” [1], faculty being “an ability, natural or acquired, for a particular kind of action” [2]. Since we all have this ability naturally rather than having to acquire it, as is apparent simply by noticing that you’re sitting reading this post right now, it’s just a case of recognizing this “particular kind of action” occurring in real-time and learning how to utilize it effectively.

Some common synonyms for the word “attentive” include: heedful, aware, alert, and, perhaps most interestingly given the context of this piece, mindful [3]. In short, to be attentive is to be heedful, aware or mindful of whatever is occurring at any given moment. For the sake of clarity, I’d like to briefly analyze the word “mindfulness” since, given what we know already about attentiveness and based on my own practice, I posit that it is identical in operation and produces the same phenomenological results; there will likely be some who immediately disagree based on comments made by the founder of the AFT, or consider these correlations to be the product of “my” efforts to force-fit the language of one model with another. I am trying to present this in as clear terms as possible so as to avoid any ambiguity or bias towards any one model, and am also providing these breakdowns of the words to clarify the way in which I use and understand them.

The word “mindful” is an adjective meaning “attentive, aware, or careful (usually followed by of)” [4] or “conscious or aware of something“[5][6]. We’ve already looked at “attentive” and found that it’s synonymous with words like “mindful”, “heedful”, “aware” and “alert”, all of which represent the same process: To be attentive of something; to be paying attention; to be aware. It does not require any further analysis to demonstrate that mindfulness and attentiveness are simply labels for the same, naturally occurring ability to pay attention.

What is this “naturally occurring ability to pay attention” and how does it happen?

The Process
Attentiveness is occurring right now as I sit here writing this; as my eyes scan the screen I’m able to simultaneously notice the sound of my fingers on the keyboard, the television in the background, and the sound of traffic outside. I’m also aware of what’s going on ‘internally’ and can notice thoughts arising by themselves, the way I mentally verbalize these words as I edit this paragraph and consider whether it’s an accurate description or not; a reflection based on the way that I understand the words I’m using and whether or not others will understand them in the same way. All of this can be observed occurring without effort, but the simplicity of attentiveness is what makes it difficult for some to perceive.

Attentiveness is just a matter of noticing what’s happening right now, you’re not looking for anything or trying to do anything, you’re just noticing what’s already happening at this moment. It’s an active engagement in your immediate experience, an alertness, a preparedness to openly accept whatever arises without judgement. This attentiveness includes what’s going on” internally” - by which I mean: the general feelings observed, emotional states, thoughts that present themselves, particular narratives the mind reels off; mental phenomena in general - as well as what’s going on “externally” - by which I mean: physical sensations via the five sense doors: touch, sight, sound, taste, and smell. Attentiveness only ever happens right now, not in the future and not in the past, now. Not then. Only now. To be attentive or mindful is to be actively present; to be cognizant of what is happening at this moment in time.

So, why is it that the vast majority of people aren’t actively engaged in simply being aware, particularly when there are so many benefits to be found in doing so?

The Problem
The way our minds usually function involves a continual push-pull between past, present and future, only spending fleeting moments actually being here. When we’re not occupied with thoughts like “what am I going to do when I finish what I’m doing right now?”, we’re occupied with thoughts like “why isn’t what I’m doing right now as good as that thing I was doing before?”. We’re rarely here now, which may sound clichéd but is easy enough to verify as accurate in our own experience; we’re either fretting over what might happen in some not-occurring-right-now future, or worrying about what’s already happened in, or may occur due to, some not-occurring-right-now event in the past.

To complicate matters further, we then identify with those thoughts and narratives, consider them to be “my” thoughts, “my” stories about what’s going to happen to “me”; we have feelings about those mental phenomena which give rise to this sense of “me” in the first place and around we go again ad infinitum. All of these, relatively [7] subtle, automatic processes, that we’re not usually aware of, are part of what leads to a lack of attentiveness. The noticing of them is the first step to seeing them clearly, and once they’re seen clearly they can be let go of via further attentiveness and investigation. What’s happening now is what counts, what might happen or what’s already happened are never occurring right now so thoughts of them can be acknowledged and let go of. This is not to say that reflection on what’s gone before or planning for what may come are not necessary; regardless of whether you’re “awakened” or “not” you still need to be able to function skilfully in the real-world.

Aside from the natural inclination of our minds towards this dynamic and dualistic process of identification, there’s also the issue of effort, of having to do something to be attentive in the first place. If we can see how being attentive, present and aware allows life to be far more pleasant and clearly, fully experienced then we can find ways to incorporate it in fun, interesting and engaging ways; when we can have fun while learning, we can optimize our ability to take on board information. While attentiveness can become automatic with enough effort and practice, it requires a kickstart for the mind to be able to recognize it; it seems paradoxical that something effortless should require effort to become what it already is, yet it’s one of those things that really need to be experienced to be understood fully.

The Basics
There are lots of ways you can kickstart attentiveness, whether it’s asking yourself “How Am I Experiencing This Moment of Being Alive” (also known as HAIETMOBA) or just noticing that you’re annoyed by something on the television; it comes down to being aware of what you’re experiencing, both “internally” and “externally” at any given moment. As far as what we’re supposed to be aware of, the list could go on for pages, but we can describe a (very) basic framework to start from and you’re then free to explore, add, amend or discard whatever helps your own practice. Essentially we’re looking at the six points of sense contact, a.k.a. “sense doors” a.k.a. the senses and what sort of information they can ‘take in’:

Eyes = Sight (Visual)

Ears = Hearing (Auditory)

Nose = Smell (Olfactory)

Tongue = Taste (Gustatory)

Skin/Muscle = Touch/Movement (Tactile/Kinesthetic)

‘Mind’ = Thought/A label for mental sensations in general.


These are our six points of sense contact, in which I’m also including the submodalities of each e.g. with regards to sight, we can talk about light, colour and form; distinctions discernible within the experience of “seeing”. How each of the senses can be further investigated will be of more interest to us later in the discussion, but for the moment we’ll go back to basics and strip the practice to it’s bare bones.

The Details
As we’ve already seen, to be attentive is to be aware...but aware of what? Your experience at this moment as it happens! And how do you do that? By noticing what’s happening! Is it really that simple? Yes! Simply notice that you’re already aware of at least one aspect of your current experience, whether it’s the sensation of a warm breeze against your cheek or the memory of dinner with a friend, whatever is happening in your body and/or mind is what to be aware of. Something quite cool about attentiveness is that it’s got a built-in feedback mechanism; once you learn how to recognize it, you can quickly see when you’re no longer being attentive which immediately brings you back to where you want to be: Present, mindful, aware and cognizant of how you feel inside and out; from your emotional state to the itch on your foot, it’s all made of the same stuff and is worthy of being investigated. With practice, you can begin to dismantle and investigate these feelings and sensations but, for the moment, I’m going to stick to the practice of attentiveness itself rather than insight.

Once you can be aware of one sensation, you can begin to expand that ‘field’ of attention to include other sensations like sounds, touch, sights, and so on; notice how each of these “sense consciousness” happens of its own accord, they occur when an object makes contact with them and don’t require any effort on your part. It’s a fascinating thing to do, just noticing how your experience of the world is being constructed in real-time and how incredible the human brain and nervous system are; the ever-changing, chaotic blast of information that makes up “reality” is received, decoded, and interpreted by this organism to create this experience of the world...and “I” am not involved in any way, shape or form. Literally.

You can also look further into the various submodalities which make up the overall “object” being perceived by this implied “subject”. For example, in the instant of touch there are myriad sensations which make up that particular conceptual label, “touch”; we can (ap)perceive temperature, pressure, texture/pattern, etc. each of which can then be broken down ad absurdum if you’re so inclined. There is a kaleidoscopic range of sensory delight available right now, ever changing and never static, simply by paying more attention to your experience; notice more, look closer and see just how multi-faceted a jewel (ap)perception is.

In terms of what we’ll call “internal” sensations, by which I mean mental movements, thoughts, conceptualizing, and anything of a not-solely-physical-sense-based variety, the selection of what can be attended to is pretty much endless. What’s useful is not to get involved in the content, simply notice them and see how they appear, fade and vanish by themselves to be replaced by something else. With further practice, you can also dismantle and investigate these states in the same way as you would with any other sensation. It’s all fair game, the point is (if such a thing can even be said!) that you’re attentive to what’s happening in your immediate experience right now. Once you can be attentive effortlessly, practice being more attentive to even more of your experience; there is no end to how attentive you can be but it can only happen right now.

Practical Suggestions
I’ve already mentioned the Actualism technique of asking yourself “HAIETMOBA?” and recognizing emotional states, but it’s possible to use a variety of techniques to improve your practice of attentiveness.

- Thich Nhat Hanh talks about mindfully doing the dishes in one of his books; how you’re doing them just to be doing them (being attentive to what's happening right now), not purely to get them done (being otherwise focused on some future event). This sort of everyday activity is ideal for practicing attentiveness, exploring the complex interplay of sensations, this “dance of creation” that is sensate experience means that there’s never any reason to be bored; there is always something to be aware of and this is where we can begin practicing properly.

- Taking a cue from my personal favourite, the batshit mental but never dull, Aleister Crowley, choose a word, for example “I”, and try to delete it from your speech for a predefined period of time; should you transgress this self-imposed limitation, Uncle Al would have you cut yourself with a razor, however Bob Wilson suggests the less masochistic, but equally effective, biting your thumb. While this practice is aimed more at mindfulness of speech, the basic technique can be used as a ‘goad’ for attentiveness in general. My own preference was to use an elastic band to “ping” my wrist . It’s discreet enough to be unnoticeable, but it hurts enough to get you back to being attentive.

- Gurdjieff would have people notice their entire experience when they did things like walking through a doorway, and in fact it was this particular technique which allowed me to understand what the guy was talking about. He called it “self-observation” but the practice of it, in my experience, is phenomenologically the same as being mindful or attentive within other models.[8] Using external objects as triggers for becoming attentive is incredibly useful, they’re always available and can be changed to suit wherever you are; anything which allows you to simply remind yourself to notice your experience will work. Some examples from my own practice include: Noticing when going through doorways, setting an alarm to go off every five minutes or some other period of time, writing down the word “notice” on my notepad in work and remembering to do so each time I see it, noticing every time I check my phone...the list goes on, it all comes down to what works for you and reminds you to be attentive right now.

- When you’re sitting on the train or bus and listening to music, notice all the different elements of the sounds you hear. Look at how you can hear all the different instrumentation, the pitch and tone of sounds, how long each lasts and how attention seems to move between each part; feel the vibration of the air as it makes contact with the eardrum, it’s subtle but discernible; look at your emotional reaction to the sounds, how feelings and thinking can change based on, for example, the lyrics, key or tempo of the music. Don’t get involved in the content, just observe how things are at that moment and how they change. This can be applied in a similar way to things like watching movies, reading books, or engaging in any sort of entertainment whatsoever as long as it leads you to be mindful, attentive or aware of your immediate experience via the “sense doors”.

- Be actively engaged in your experience, aware and full of wonder, enthusiastically enjoying what you’re doing. This practice is truly enjoyable in it’s beginning, middle and end...

Hopefully this brief breakdown and analysis of attentiveness will allow people to improve their practice, understand what attentiveness “is” and how it works in real terms. I’ll make it clear again that this is simply a reflection of my current understanding and is subject to change at any time, these are my attempts at describing the basics of the practice itself without reference to any particular conceptual map of the territory involved. Just real-life, phenomenological details from my own experience which may be of use to others.

Any suggestions, alterations, improvements or requests for clarification should be posted as I would like some feedback from others on this. If there’s any way I can improve the clarity of these descriptions or if there’s anything you’ve noticed in your own experience which may prove useful then please say so. (This article will be used on my new blog, Methods of Awakening, and any contributions will be attributed to their authors.)

All the best,
Tommy


[1] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/attention?s=t
[2] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/faculty
[3] Controversy and accusations of plagiarism aside, the fact that Richard, the spectacularly bearded founder of the Actualism method, chose to help himself to some of Bhante Gunaratana’s “Mindfulness in Plain English” for his “Attentiveness, Sensuousness and Apperceptiveness” article is something I find fascinating. It could well prove to be a useful point of agreement to work from when trying to discuss how the AF Model can be lined up with “spiritual” models of experience. I am unable to find any evidence to suggest that the territory Richard has ‘discovered’ is unique to him, although the model/ filter/view/map through which his experience is being related in written word does seem unique to his oft-mentioned “flesh and blood body”. Don’t misunderstand me here, I agree with Richard to a point but I think there’s still value in a re-reading, with the clarity of actuality and a willingness to question our assumptions about language, the writings and maps of other traditions with the idea that they too were trying to describe actuality. Then again, I could just be finding evidence to support my current “reality tunnel” and purposely excluding information which contradicts my current point-of-view; an opinion and nothing more.
[4] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mindful?s=t
[5] http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/mindful?q=mindful
[6] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mindful?s=t
[7] Relative to the everyday consciousness of those not already investigating such things.
[8] Please note, I am not trying to equate G.I. Gurdjieff’s model with anything else, I don’t understand enough of it and my experience with it is minimal. I only mention him so as to attribute this specific technique to it’s inventor, however some of the techniques he uses, and the “self-observation” thing in particular, do bear similarities to the bare-bones processes of other models.

Edited to add: Link to blog.
RE: Attentiveness: A Primer
5/29/12 7:21 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Hi Tommy,

Nice work, very clear. The challenge with all this stuff is often the incredulity of something so ordinary being so powerful. I know i did not know what was happening to me many years ago was simply (ap)perception at a heightened level. So articles like this most likely will find greater impact by addressing in them this paradox (ordinary already happening processes are the key to awakening).

You have mentioned writing a book-like expose on your practice, perhaps it would be best (assuming education of the 'masses' is on the agenda somewhere) to leave Uncle Al to the footnotes of that tome, it's sort of jarring to one minute to be mindfully reading the next imagining blood pouring out of my arms for mentioning the word 'I'. I have a vivid imagination I must admit. haha

But I like it alot, There can never have too many reminders to pay attention. Kenneth folk made an interesting comment in the AF thread on his site about the 'hard wired' reaction humans have for authoritatian/extremist points of view. (I can't remember quite how he put it, but it was to do with this paradox I'm talking about; it's not until someone make an outrageous claim that we pay attention (pardon the overuse of that term) to what was always in front of our eyes.) So, maybe leaving in the Crowley bits are the edge needed!

Perhaps you could expand (!) on your elastic band mindfulness technique, it sounds very zen to me. thwack!! pay attention!!

That brings up another irony of the whole thing; the hard and extreme stuff gets our interest, but it is not until the gentle and patient habit is formed we make real progress.
RE: Attentiveness: A Primer
5/29/12 8:40 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
I think the word apperception deserves a much more thorough treatment than as a tack-on to the the word perception in parenthesis. It seems to me that apperception to you means the same as perception, and you are of course entitled to that, and no one owns the word apperception. In my understanding it is not just something similar to perception, it is actually a great deal different.

Here is the first definition of the word apperception from wiktionary:

Noun
apperception
1. The mind's perception of itself as the subject or actor in its own states, unifying past and present experiences; self-consciousness, perception that reflects upon itself.


The above quote is much closer to my understanding of apperception than perception:

Noun
perception
1. Conscious understanding of something.
4. That which is detected by the five senses; not necessarily understood (imagine looking through fog, trying to understand if you see a small dog or a cat); also that which is detected within consciousness as a thought, intuition, deduction, etc.


Apperception includes perception, but does more than that. And the experiential difference is vast.

Briefly trying to explain this difference in a way relevant to this post, I'd say:

Apperception is the perception of perception.

Yellow and blue make green.

It's a presence, a reflectiveness which does not judge; in fact it does nothing, except merely informing one that one is indeed conscious (and this is, in a word, marvelous). I speculate that this is the main cause for the constant delta waves in brains of awakened people (and am not alone in that).

I hope this was clear emoticon
RE: Attentiveness: A Primer
5/29/12 9:26 PM as a reply to Stian Gudmundsen Høiland.
Cheers lads, I appreciate the input and support.

Stian, I'm going to do a similar thing with apperception, amongst other words and phrases, and break it down to the bare details. This whole blog is going to be about stripping it back to the words and deconstructing the metaphors to get to the sensate experiences they symbolize. My usage of parenthesis around (ap)perception was supposed to be to signify that both, while having the same sensate basis (e.g. the eyes and brain are what receive and interpret the information regardless of whether "seeing" is apperceived or not) are experientially 'different'. If that makes sense. emoticon Oh btw, apologies for not texting you back, my battery died in work and I couldn't charge my phone till later.
RE: Attentiveness: A Primer
5/29/12 9:41 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy,
Thanks for the post, very appropriate for my own practice right now. It's definitely highlighted the fact that I tend to get to caught up in my mind and pay to little attention to the other 5 sense doors.

metta,

Brian.
RE: Attentiveness: A Primer
5/30/12 11:12 AM as a reply to Tommy M.
For the sake of clarity, I’d like to briefly analyze the word “mindfulness” since, given what we know already about attentiveness and based on my own practice, I posit that it is identical in operation and produces the same phenomenological results; there will likely be some who immediately disagree based on comments made by the founder of the AFT, or consider these correlations to be the product of “my” efforts to force-fit the language of one model with another. I am trying to present this in as clear terms as possible so as to avoid any ambiguity or bias towards any one model, and am also providing these breakdowns of the words to clarify the way in which I use and understand them.


this seems a bit confused. Towards the end, you say that you are feeding us definitions to "clarify the way in which I use..." but at the beginning you "posit that (the two terms are) identical in operation and produces the same phenomenological results". When comparing two terms used by different camps, usage is more important than the actual definition.

If we can see how being attentive, present and aware allows life to be far more pleasant and clearly, fully experienced then we can find ways to incorporate it in fun, interesting and engaging ways


This section could be enhanced.

While attentiveness can become automatic with enough effort and practice, it requires a kickstart for the mind to be able to recognize it; it seems paradoxical that something effortless should require effort to become what it already is, yet it’s one of those things that really need to be experienced to be understood fully.


examples would be helpful either personal or in the literature.


- Be actively engaged in your experience, aware and full of wonder, enthusiastically enjoying what you’re doing. This practice is truly enjoyable in it’s beginning, middle and end...


more examples...


Why did you post this? Why are you starting a blog?


jon
RE: Attentiveness: A Primer
5/30/12 4:08 PM as a reply to Jon T.
Tommy:
For the sake of clarity, I’d like to briefly analyze the word “mindfulness” since, given what we know already about attentiveness and based on my own practice, I posit that it is identical in operation and produces the same phenomenological results; there will likely be some who immediately disagree based on comments made by the founder of the AFT, or consider these correlations to be the product of “my” efforts to force-fit the language of one model with another. I am trying to present this in as clear terms as possible so as to avoid any ambiguity or bias towards any one model, and am also providing these breakdowns of the words to clarify the way in which I use and understand them.


Jon:
this seems a bit confused. Towards the end, you say that you are feeding us definitions to "clarify the way in which I use..." but at the beginning you "posit that (the two terms are) identical in operation and produces the same phenomenological results". When comparing two terms used by different camps, usage is more important than the actual definition.

I see where you're coming from, let me try to clarify: What I meant when I said "...breakdowns of the words to clarify the way in which I use and understand them" was that "the way in which I use and understand" any word in the English language is based upon the way it's defined in the dictionary and the way it's used most commonly in the English-speaking world. This is one of the reasons I continually point out that, while it's possible that I have some agenda I'm not telling anyone about, I am trying to present the facts, the phenomenological details and some real-life examples.

I had no intention of "feeding" anyone definitions, I've presented commonly used definitions of the word along with the sources on which the descriptions were based. How each term is used by other traditions was not my main concern, I am only interested in describing the basics of what I consider to be a fundamental practice, regardless of which model, tradition, approach, paradigm or whatever it is that you choose to base your investigations upon. I deliberately avoided delving into model-specific usage and interpretations, mainly because it's far too vast an area to fully explore and also because it would be of little practical value to anyone reading it.

Tommy:
If we can see how being attentive, present and aware allows life to be far more pleasant and clearly, fully experienced then we can find ways to incorporate it in fun, interesting and engaging ways

Jon:
This section could be enhanced.

Do you mean like anecdotal examples of times when life was "far more pleasant...", or are you talking about listing examples of times/events/locations where this could be applied in a concrete way? Just asking so that I'm clear on what you're saying, I don't know if an anecdotal approach would be particularly useful as it would set up expectations and mental objects for people to "look for" in their own practice, e.g. "he said he saw things more directly and clearly, that colours were much more vivid than before so that's what I'll look for.."; a list of examples of times when this could be applied in fun ways would definitely be worth expanding on though, so I'll see what else I can add that might be useful.

Do you have any suggestions from your own practice? I'm interested in more ways to incorporate this stuff into everyday life so anything you've found useful would be great.

Tommy:
While attentiveness can become automatic with enough effort and practice, it requires a kickstart for the mind to be able to recognize it; it seems paradoxical that something effortless should require effort to become what it already is, yet it’s one of those things that really need to be experienced to be understood fully.


Jon:
examples would be helpful either personal or in the literature.

Again just for clarification, what specifically do you think would be helpful? Practical or anecdotal info?

Why did you post this? Why are you starting a blog?

Why I posted it here was mainly for a sort of casual 'peer-review' and to see what others, regardless of where there are in their practice, thought about it. Was it clear enough? Did it communicate information accurately? Does applying these techniques in the way I describe here lead to any improvement or change in someone's practice? What could be improved?

Why I started a blog at all was to make information available that I'd have found useful earlier in my own practice. Over the last year or two, a few people have commented on the way I describe these things and found the advice I've offered to be accurate and helpful; due to this, and because I've noticed a lot of the same general questions coming up from people on the DhO and elsewhere, I decided to combine my enjoyment of writing, my enjoyment of helping others and my enjoyment of, in particular, writing about things which are of interest to me into one project. It's not specific to any one model, it's not spiritual, it's not actualist, it's just basic descriptions of the phenomenological, practical techniques of meditation, magick, contemplation, neurolinguistics, semantics, and any other method which I have found to be effective in making life more enjoyable. No teachings, no "my methods" or "my approach", just describing things in as simple terms as possible so that people can go away any try it for themselves.

Why would you be interested in why I would post this, or why I would be starting a blog? What relevance does that have to your own practice?

Cheers!
RE: Attentiveness: A Primer
5/30/12 5:40 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
I see where you're coming from, let me try to clarify: What I meant when I said "...breakdowns of the words to clarify the way in which I use and understand them" was that "the way in which I use and understand" any word in the English language is based upon the way it's defined in the dictionary and the way it's used most commonly in the English-speaking world. This is one of the reasons I continually point out that, while it's possible that I have some agenda I'm not telling anyone about, I am trying to present the facts, the phenomenological details and some real-life examples.

I had no intention of "feeding" anyone definitions, I've presented commonly used definitions of the word along with the sources on which the descriptions were based. How each term is used by other traditions was not my main concern, I am only interested in describing the basics of what I consider to be a fundamental practice, regardless of which model, tradition, approach, paradigm or whatever it is that you choose to base your investigations upon. I deliberately avoided delving into model-specific usage and interpretations, mainly because it's far too vast an area to fully explore and also because it would be of little practical value to anyone reading it.


Reading over my criticism, i think it was unclear. Where precise language was the aim, definitions can be simply relagated to a footnote. Where the comparison of different camps is your aim, usage is more important than definition.


Do you mean like anecdotal examples of times when life was "far more pleasant...", or are you talking about listing examples of times/events/locations where this could be applied in a concrete way?


Anecdotes make for a better read. Listing where/when seems unnecessary since it's a 24/7 thing.

Do you have any suggestions from your own practice? I'm interested in more ways to incorporate this stuff into everyday life so anything you've found useful would be great.


Today in WallMart, i thought about the individual conscious vs. the social order. It was a guilt-free sincere collocation of the facts as i knew them. Walking home, I noticed the cumulus clouds and thought about weather. I then went home and read about precipitation. Over dinner, a report on Syria was broadcast. It provoked sadness. I was pleased that the sadness didn't accumulate and turn into some minor emotional upheaval like a rant or a prolonged inner dialogue. In all these cases, the mind was active rather than a puppet of the emotions.


Again just for clarification, what specifically do you think would be helpful? Practical or anecdotal info?


You typed that it had to be experienced to be understood. Perhaps you could try to relate what you know to the unexperienced. It would make for better reading.

Why would you be interested in why I would post this, or why I would be starting a blog? What relevance does that have to your own practice?


I've begun to realize that my social justice and rational thought ideal, which i mention in my own thread, is a compulsion to save the world. I am interested if you suffer from that compulsion as well. If i were to start a blog of this sort at this particular chapter in my life then it would be to satisfy that compulsion.

jon
RE: Attentiveness: A Primer
5/30/12 7:19 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Thanks for this post, Tommy. Whenever I come across discussions of mindfulness or any practice to be carried out during regular daily activity I think, yes! I will try that. So much underutilized time... . But, basically, I seem to lack the inspiration for it. When I read the forums and other materials, progress and turning points seem to occur primarily on the cushion. My own practice is going forward pretty well without a special emphasis on daily mindfulness off the cushion. So, it may be that anecdotes would help, or more explanation of exactly how attentiveness will enhance the awakening process.
RE: Attentiveness: A Primer
5/31/12 8:40 AM as a reply to Tommy M.
Thanks Tommy, always enjoy your stuff. Looking forward to the blog.
RE: Attentiveness: A Primer
5/31/12 3:57 PM as a reply to Jon T.
Reading over my criticism, i think it was unclear. Where precise language was the aim, definitions can be simply relagated to a footnote. Where the comparison of different camps is your aim, usage is more important than definition.

Thanks for elaborating on that. My aim with this was to describe the practice of attentiveness itself in a simple, clear way; the comparison with mindfulness was meant to be an example of how the same processes can be labelled in different ways, although on reading it back again with your comments in mind I may rework that section somewhat.

Anecdotes make for a better read. Listing where/when seems unnecessary since it's a 24/7 thing.

Aye, I know what you mean but I'm trying to keep this thing focused on the technical side of practice, although that's not to say that I won't include any anecdotes in future posts but it doesn't seem necessary here. Duly noted though, don't think I'm just dismissing your suggestions or anything, I'm taking all of these comments on board 'cause I'm not hugely confident in my writing skills and hearing other perspectives on it is very useful for improving this.

You typed that it had to be experienced to be understood. Perhaps you could try to relate what you know to the unexperienced. It would make for better reading.

I had toyed with that but couldn't find the appropriate way of saying it, I wrote and re-wrote various attempts to describe it in a sensible, logical way but none of them, for me at least, really hit the mark. The closest I could get was using the analogy of being a kid and climbing a ladder to get to the top of a slide; the climb requires effort, the sliding itself is but a gentle push...however it's not a very good analogy in the first place and misses out on a few important aspects of it. I'll have a think about it and see if I can come up with anything more practice.

I've begun to realize that my social justice and rational thought ideal, which i mention in my own thread, is a compulsion to save the world. I am interested if you suffer from that compulsion as well. If i were to start a blog of this sort at this particular chapter in my life then it would be to satisfy that compulsion.

Ah, I suspected that you might be thinking something like that because it's something I've examined very closely, especially in the weeks I've spent planning this blog and the way in which I'm going to write it. I really wanted to make sure I wasn't trying to save the world or thinking that I was supposed to spread some "message" or whatever, as I've worked through these sorts of ideas I've realized that the main reason I'm doing this is simply because I enjoy doing it. I'm writing something that I would have found useful 10+ years ago and which would have helped me to avoid a lot of potential pitfalls, problems which I was still encountering as recently as last year but which strong, accurate practice helped to rectify; because I found certain ways of practising to be useful to "me", I thought that others would maybe benefit from hearing about my take on them. Its just another opinion, I don't expect anyone to believe a word I say without first having tested the techniques for themselves; if they don't work for them, so be it, there will likely be another method more suited to their disposition. It's basically about making information available, but I understand the risk of veering into self-righteousness or trying to change the world.

A'ra best